Easy Smoked BBQ Pork is just the thing for warmer weather weekend dinners.
But first, a little history on this recipe:
In 2015, my good friend Mel Joulwan (Well Fed, Well Fed 2, Well Fed Weeknights) asked me to collaborate with her on a 6-installment recipe column in Paleo Magazine. I jumped at the chance because I’m a huge fan of Mel’s work, and she’s a dear friend of mine in real life.
Now, BBQ is a highly regional, often hotly contested method of cooking…
…and Mel’s broken it down here for you.
She writes about this Easy Smoked BBQ Pork:
“You would think something as primal as meat cooked over a low flame would be simple: rub the meat with spices, smoke it until it’s tender, douse it with some sauce, and grab a pile of napkins before you dig in.
What is Texas BBQ?
But as I learned when I was transplanted in Texas, nothing about barbecue is simple to the connoisseurs who smoke it. Even something as seemingly innocuous as barbecue sauce is the source of delicious contention.
Regional barbecue tends to be defined by the spice rub or marinade that coats the meat before it’s cooked, and the type of sauce—or lack thereof—when it comes off the fire. There’s also a fair amount of chest beating about which cuts and types of meat truly define barbecue. Some swear by pork shoulder and pork ribs, while others contend it’s all about beef brisket.
What is Southern BBQ?
Southern barbecue like that found in Tennessee and the Carolinas tends to put pigs front and center. Hogs were introduced to America by the Spaniards, and they soon turned feral. (The hogs, not the Spaniards.)
This luck of empire building established pork as the go-to meat for barbecue in places like Lexington, Charleston, and Memphis. The sauce is where these traditions diverge. Your combo plate in Memphis will be drizzled with a thin, tangy tomato sauce, but in South Carolina, it’s a mustard-based sauce with brown sugar and vinegar. Head to its northern neighbor, and you’ll find the meat is basted with a thin, ketchup-based glaze.
The western border of barbecue country is loosely formed by the line from Texas to Missouri, and along that frontier, the meat of choice is usually beef with a special fondness for fatty brisket—know as “moist” to aficionados.
How to Make Smoked Pork BBQ
The meat is usually rubbed with spices and cooked ultra-slowly over hardwood, then served with a rich, sticky, tomato-based sauce on the side. (Always on the side! Never on the meat!)
These barbecue and slaw recipes are a mash-up of flavors from some of my favorite Texas and Southern barbecue experiences. (True barbecue is never just a meal; it’s an experience.)
I’ve assumed two things about you and planned the recipes accordingly: (1) you don’t have a barbecue pit in your backyard, and (2) you don’t want to spend 12 to 18 hours tending a wood fire.
This pork butt gets a quick, but effective, smoke on a gas grill, then finishes in the oven, so it requires very little attention from you. I recommend you serve the pork Texas-style with sliced raw, white onion and dill pickles.”
What If You Don’t Have a Smoker?
Steph here again…I made this Easy Smoked BBQ Pork without a grill at all and just baked the meat, then crisped it under the broiler.
Sure, it would have had an even smokier finish if I used the grill…
…but I used smoked paprika instead of paprika to fake that depth of flavor just a bit.
Easy Smoked BBQ Pork
This Easy Smoked BBQ Pork recipe is scrumptious and fall-apart tender. You'll add a rub, smoke the pork or bake it in the oven, and serve.
For the pork
- 4 lb boneless pastured pork shoulder or pork butt you want a big ol’ fatty hunk of pork
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp ground paprika
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 4 cups wood chips*
For the BBQ sauce
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup paleo-friendly ketchup
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
For the garnish:
- White onion sliced
- Dill pickle chips
Season the butt. Mix all the spices together and massage the blend all over the pork; be sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies. Set aside while you prep the grill.
*Smoke it, baby. Place the wood chips in a bowl and cover them with water. Soak for 15 minutes, then drain off the water. Place the damp wood chips on a large piece of aluminum foil. Fold the foil to make a packet, then poke a few holes in the packet so smoke can escape. Place the packet on the primary burner of your gas grill, turn all the burners to high, and preheat with the lid down. After about 15 minutes, the wood chips will start to smoke. (Steph's note: I made this without the smoking step because I didn't have a grill. I just seasoned the pork and baked in the oven, then crisped the meat under the broiler for a few minutes.)
Place the butt. When the grill is hot and the chips are smokin’, turn the primary burner to medium and turn off the other burners. Place the pork on the cool part of the grill, close the lid, and let it smoke for about 2 hours. You want a dark, rosy crust.
The Big Finish. Preheat oven to 325F. When the pork is done smoking, place it in a roasting pan, wrap it tightly with foil, and roast in the oven for 2 to 3 hours, until you can insert a fork and remove it with no resistance. Now you need to be patient just a little bit longer: take the pork out of the oven and let the butt rest (Rest your butt!), still covered in the foil, for 30 minutes.
Make the sauce. Place all the ingredients in a 1-quart Mason jar and shake it like you mean it.
To serve, break the pork into hunks, mixing it with a little of the sauce to coat the crispy bits and tender interior. Serve remaining sauce on the side, along with pickles and onions.
Pin this Easy Smoked BBQ Pork recipe for later!
Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. The Best Recipe: Grilling and Barbecue. Cook’s Illustrated, 2001.
Lapetina, A. “A Field Guide to Regional BBQ Styles in America.” Thrillist.com. 10 February 2014.
Roberts, S. The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love. Salt Lick Restaurant, 2012.